“Ukraine’s future is in NATO,” alliance members reaffirmed in joint declaration at the summit in Vilnius on July 11, promising the same they had promised many times since 2008: To keep the door open.

My concierge Nelia was watching the news all day and cried during President Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech in Vilnius earlier that same day.

“Today I embarked on a trip here with faith in decisions, with faith in partners, with faith in a strong NATO. In a NATO that does not hesitate, does not waste time, and does not look back at any aggressor,” he said in front of a huge rally waving Ukrainian and Lithuanian flags, as Nelia watched in her concierge’s storage room, where she has a small TV set.

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“I wish they had accepted or invited us,” she said still wiping her tears away after the President’s passionate speech. “I thought it was possible that the war would end if they did. But it will last longer.”

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Many Ukrainians have been following the NATO summit preparations this year nurturing the hope that it would make the future of our country clearer. Thousands of brave men and women proved their commitment to democracy and independence at the front line.

The summit in Vilnius could have brought some sign that the Alliance sees and understands this. But the thin communique was too diplomatic and disappointing for many.

“We wanted it to be an engagement and to announce the wedding date. And it turned out that we’ve been hung out in the friend zone,” says Anna Natalushko, 39, a Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce worker, over the phone.

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Great Britain, one of Ukraine’s main allies, and Hungary, a strategically important neighbor, have been without ambassadors for over six months.

A pensioner Olha Yaroslavivna who walks her dog also “really hoped, that this summit would speed up the end of the war, that we would be like West Germany, which was in NATO as part of Germany.”

What she points out is a legal difficulty: to accept Ukraine in NATO in the territories of 1991, when we gained independence, while Russia is occupying around 17% of the country. Acceptance of the whole of Ukraine means direct confrontation with Russia, which has tried to officially obtain recognition of its seizure of the territories it has occupied. But such acceptance would mean the official division of Ukraine.

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“As President Biden noted, bringing Ukraine into the Alliance now, here in Vilnius, would bring NATO into war with Russia. Also, Ukraine has further steps to take along its reform path,” confirmed US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in Lithuania.

Western partners have repeatedly pointed out that modernization of the country, including the fight against corruption, is among the main tasks for Ukraine’s progress toward the EU and NATO.

“I understand that joining NATO is like putting a carrot in front of a donkey to get things moving. I hope it will happen after the war,” says Vitaliy, a Kyivite of around 50, who walks his dog in the evenings and prefers not to share his last name.

Natalushko, who has spent the entire war in Kyiv, sees the lack of specifics and vague NATO promises as a “bad sign” that Russia could take as weakness.

“Even missiles and aid look like a consolation prize at the NATO summit this time,” Natalushko underlines her disappointment via the phone.

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But not all Ukrainians share the disappointment. Some had not expected crucial decisions. “I understand that NATO will accept Ukraine only after the war. I was not hopeful because there were many requirements and objective obstacles,” says Oleksiy, 25, a younger Kyiv resident who walks his Beagle Teddy.

According to recent polls, 89% of Ukrainians support joining NATO. However, an invitation does not mean immediate accession or the application of Article 5. The gap between invitation and accession could take years, but it would send a much stronger signal to Ukrainians who are confronting Russian aggression on a daily basis.

“The longer we are not accepted into NATO, the more chances Russia sees for a long and exhausting war,” Natalushko thinks. “Our strong Western allies have to decide whether we should join NATO, but it is Ukraine that is and will be attacked.”

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Comments (6)

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jepsap
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As a US citizen, I am 100% for Ukraine being in EU and NATO, but only after it cleans up its' corruption. There are too many already in NATO and EU that do not belong.

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David
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It should be obvious to all those without strategic patience that NATO is, at present, very very far from fully prepared to take on Russia in defence of Ukraine in case Ukraine was invited at Vilnius and joined it shortly after.
It should be obvious NATO currently has insufficient production rate and stocks ammunition, precision warheads and other firepower needed to ensure a reasonably quick victory with minimum casualties.

Such a conventional war in Europe should not be started or escalated until it’s possible to arrive at a speedy conclusion, with minimum casualties, while limiting opportunities for escalation to a nuclear threshold

It will take time to ramp things up, but nevertheless Ukraine still has access to virtually the entire available surplus stock and production capacity currently available to NATO countries. There is not a lot other than un useable attack air power to add to the present equation.

Meanwhile Ukraine will do well to minimise use of expensive anti-air missiles against drones that cost a fraction of the defensive missiles.
The same goes for artillery shells that cost three times as much to produce in NATO countries. These facts might help explain Ben Wallace’s comment that “we are not Amazon”. I.e. not limitless.

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I support
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I know this a disappointing outcome for now. I think that if they where excepted into Nato right now i don't believe the war would end Russia is nuts. As much as i don't like the outcome myself i see the logic its unfortunate and the Ukraine is not alone. The support won't stop Nato understands that to beat the bear you need to poke it in the eye. The only way to do that is the way the current situation is. Shity but true. One day it will be Ukrainians training Nato I have no doubt.

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Barruntaranchos
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I think President Zelensky made a mistake with the tough complain about the position of NATO about the entrance of Ukraine. He is right when complains about the speed and size of the delivery of weapons to Ukraine, the main factor for the end of the war, but it was clear from the beginning that NATO can´t accept Ukraine while still at war with Russia. Ukraine will be part of NATO and the EU, but none of them are free. To enter EU Ukraine will have to cut its most competitive industries and products, to avoid sinking those sectors in the EU, as many other countries had to do to join the EU. Ukraine and its people will be an important part of the NATO and the EU, but don´t expect that means entering Paradise.

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E A Morgan-Coakle
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Please try to be realistic.
Russia is currently controlled by insecure and ruthless people. As the saying goes: a rat cornered is most dangerous.
NATO membership is for peace, and when that day comes is up to those bleeding for their communities.
Rooting out corruption of every form must happen before NATO membership.
Yes Ukraine is being pressured to change - change for the better - if you have the sense to make it so.

Philip Tummarello
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@E A Morgan-Coakle, Western countries feigned outrage over "corruption" in Ukraine is laughable. In many ways they are more corrupted than Ukraine. Ukraine will not be admitted to NATO as long as putin is in power, and he isn't going anywhere soon enough. putin makes most strategic decisions for NATO and perpetually weak President of the United States, who's son has profited very nicely from Ukrainian "corruption".

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Cedar
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I understand that Ukraine could not join NATO & invoke Article 5, requiring mutual defence, in the midst of a war. But the West could have given Ukraine a formal, binding invitation to join, along with a promise that it would be activated as soon as the war ends, & in the meantime, given Ukraine a precise list of the requirements it has to fulfil in order to gain full membership status. As it is, I fear NATO has signalled to Putin that it is not serious about regarding Ukraine as a partner.
Ukraine is not a poor country that would require constant assistance. It is an undeveloped one, with great natural resources. I hope Ukraine survives the war and regains its territories, The next thing will be safeguarding its resources, so that reconstruction & development does not only benefit foreign shareholders. Ukrainian survivors deserve peaceful & contented lives, after this bravely sustained but exhausting resistance to the Russian Federation’s vicious imperialism.

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